On Monday, John C. Turmel (website) will stand as a candidate of the Pauper Party in a Canadian provincial by-election in the Kitchener-Waterloo district in Ontario. (American readers, think state legislature.) The election is for an open seat, replacing outgoing Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer.
Her partymate in the byelection is Tracey Weiler, who is running against Eric Davis (Liberal), Catherine Fife (NDP), Stacey Danckert (Green), and six other candidates, including Turmel. Turmel is not expected to win.
But then, Turmel is never expected to win. This is the 77th time he has stood for elective office. And on Monday, for the 77th time, he will surely fail. He is the Guinness world record holder for the most elections contested and most elections lost, with an unblemished record of failure dating back to 1979. His losses actually only add up to 75, but that was because election #67, another by-election in 2008, was halted because a federal election was called, overriding the by-election. (Needless to say, he ran in the federal, making it election #68. And lost.)
During election #58, a federal election in 2004, a documentary was done on Turmel. Part 1 is here; the others can be hunted down easily.
Turmel has never come close to winning. He has never come close to close. His best result was in election #20, a municipal election in 1985, when he garnered 7.25% of the vote in Nepean, a town now disincorporated and part of Ottawa. His next-best result was in election #28, when he got 3.88% of the vote in a 1988 mayoral election in Ottawa. In his 75 completed elections, he has topped 2% only six times, and topped 1% ten times. He has not topped 1% since 1997, in election #44.
Why does he lose? For one, once you get saddled with the 'perennial candidate' label, there's really no way back from it. Nobody votes for the perennial candidate. Perennial candidates are seen as comic relief from the real candidates who might actually win. For two, he's the kind of guy who would put out a YouTube video like this:
In 1980, Turmel ran in five different elections (#2-6). He's run in four elections each in 1981 (#7-10), 1982 (#11-14), 1988 (#26-29), 2000 (#49-52), and 2006 (#60-63). He has only sat out in 1989 and 1992, probably only because there weren't any seats up for grabs in Ontario those years, at least none that I could find.
At one point, he found time to go on the show 'The Dragons' Den'. (You ever watch Shark Tank on ABC? Same show, a couple of the same investors even, different name.) He lost so badly he was relegated to a montage segment (skip to 34:20). Then he sued. He lost some more.
At least he's won the record for losing. A record he will pad on Monday.